MEXICO CITY (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took a spin on the international stage Wednesday, bringing state business to Mexico City and testing his diplomatic savvy as he considers a run for president in 2016.
During three days of meetings with dignitaries, speeches on international trade and a walk among the locals, Christie was giving Americans a glimpse at how he might represent the nation overseas — and whether his signature blunt-talking style can be harnessed effectively in such a role.
Christie began his mission on a safe note, with scripted remarks in front of an investment seminar convened by one of his state's economic organizations, Choose New Jersey. Speaking at a lectern and sounding tired after an early-morning flight, he stressed the economic relationship between Mexico and his state.
"Mexico is an extraordinarily important trading partner for New Jersey and we hope, through this trip, to continue to strengthen those ties and to expand the opportunity as Mexico is going through significant change in expanding their economic opportunity around the world," said Christie. He said he hoped to "exploit to the greatest extent possible the opportunities that are being created by the significant change being brought about" in Mexico by the country's president.
Christie, the latest potential Republican presidential candidate to cross the border in pursuit of foreign policy credibility, acknowledged that the visit is a learning experience.
As governor, Christie has had few opportunities to interact with world leaders. Many people are watching closely to see how the Republican, who made his name as a brash, no-nonsense showman, adjusts to a more disciplined and subtle role.
"I am here not only to bring our thoughts, our ideas and our business leaders to Mexico. But I am also here to listen and to learn," he told the group. "And I think that's extraordinarily important for any of us who want to have an opportunity to lead and develop our states and grow in a better way."
Christie announced a partnership with ConnectAmericas.com, a new social media platform designed to connect people and businesses in Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States. New Jersey will be the first U.S. state to partner with the platform.
Christie began his trip with a meeting with the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Tony Wayne, and Sandra Fuentes, the consul general of Mexico in New York, in a private dining room at the InterContinental Presidente hotel, where he and his delegation of business leaders, aides and news media were staying.
The group was also joined by Clifford Sobel, the former U.S. ambassador to Brazil, who helped to organize the trip, as well as the governor's son, Andrew.
"There's a lot of things for me to do hear, and a lot of things that I'd like to get better acquainted with about Mexico. And so this is really a good opportunity for me to do that," Christie said shortly after arriving.